Thursday, 22 December 2016

What is the ethos of BEVA's MumsVet?

Yesterday I had a frank conversation with a veterinary colleague and (male) friend about MumsVet. It was a really thought-provoking and interesting chat as always and I was reminded to be mindful that there are always two sides of every argument.

MumsVet was a concept developed by four female equine vets (our brilliant male committee member joined us later on…) to tackle the headaches and challenges posed by our jobs as equine veterinary surgeons. Despite a huge amount of advice on government websites and the like on safe working in pregnancy the equine field poses its own unique challenges that have historically relied on anecdotal advice from a “phone a friend” network.

MumsVet was launched to provide a support network and one-stop shop for advice and resources for Mums and Dads…and the colleagues that invariably end up stepping in to help support them. But what about employers? How does a pregnant assistant affect an equine veterinary business? Has anyone stopped to consider the effect of multiple maternity leave (s) on the on call rota of a small equine practice? My friend has had his fair share of assistants on maternity leave so knows the score in terms of ensuring his assistants are supported through pregnancy and maternity leave but realistically how does this affect his practice? We are all acutely aware of the fickle nature of equine clients and their “preferred vet” and the long process of ensuring a new member of the team is accepted by all of the equine clients, but what happens when two members of our team simultaneously announce they are pregnant? Suddenly the remaining vets (and often the long standing and already over worked assistants and partners?) have to shoulder the responsibility of calls because the client “won’t have anyone else”. Is this a problem of our own making?

Additionally, what happens when a prospective partner in your practice suddenly announces that she’s pregnant? Where does that leave you in terms of staff/budget/client complaint/workload responsibility for the next 9 (if you are lucky) months? How many potential partners do equine vet practices lose to motherhood? There are clearly some notable exceptions (and none other than our remarkable BumpVet blogger and her amazingly supportive practice) but what happens to private practice owners if the female vets all get pregnant and decide to work part time. Is this a feasible option or is corporate equine practice the only answer? Who is fighting the (male?) senior partner corner?

The answer is BEVA MumsVet. Scratch beneath the slightly misleading name (we liked it and Family Vet just didn’t have the same ring to it) and look at all of the inspiring real life stories, podcasts and resources. Part time working CAN work in practice and if employers embrace the concept of flexible working then they will hopefully be rewarded by experienced, hard working parents who are happy in their jobs and willing to give 100% effort albeit not full time in a traditional 8-6 role. There are plenty of people who have the experience and WANT to stay in the profession but is it possible to combine equine practice with family life?  A debate at BEVA congress 2015 which asked, "does equine practice need to change to be compatible with family life" showed 92% of the delegates voting in favor of the motion. This was reiterated by the 2016 BEVA congress session about alternative careers where Anna Hammond discussed the benefits of part time working... But how can we help employers?!

MumsVet was created both to support employees (mums AND dads) but also employers and we must not lose sight of that. Employers (and specifically small businesses) have a tough time with logistics when considering maternity leave/pregnancy health and safety issues/employing the right vet too. We aren't talking about the multi-national businesses here like Apple and Google; pregnancy/maternity OR paternity leave and the ramifications of covering the subsequent work load with our demanding equine clientele are a really difficult task. We must absolutely support our pregnant equine vets (and those on maternity and paternity leave) but spare a thought for the employers as well. If we want to continue the "family feel" of independent equine practices rather than the cooperate feel of "VetsRus" small animal comparisons then we absolutely need to work together. Part time vets have benefits for employers too (a full share of the OOH rota means everyone does less on-call for instance) so we need to look at opportunities rather than threats of flexible working. BEVA is mindful of supporting ALL of our members as feminization of our profession increases. We are currently working on a "BEVA family-friendly practice" toolkit to support employers and employees and would welcome member comments on this blog or to 


  1. Firstly thank you for creating mumsvet - I have found it a great resource. You speak a lot of sense in this post, but as a pregnant equine vet, then a new mother, I agree we need to consider our employers, but this can lead to guilt, emotional stress, and ultimately taking undue risks.
    I also cannot fathom why a part time vet on a part time salary should do a full time share of a rota, unless it is their choice and they are being paid accordingly. This was the reason my practice would not have me back part time- they wanted to pay me 60% of my salary but for me to do 100% of the rota, for no extra pay. Logistically and financially (extra childcare) this didn't work. I hear about this so often - why are we expected to do this??

  2. Thanks Rachel for your comments and we are so pleased that you have found the resources helpful.
    As with everything in life, it is all about finding the right balance and flexibility that works for everyone.
    It's not rocket science to work out how to pay an individual pro-rata for the work they do and certainly I have friends who find the on-call work suits them more (in terms of childcare) than the 8-6 routine work. As the veterinary profession, and particularly equine practice, follows the trend of flexible working then hopefully more practices will embrace this. I have a friend who was in a similar position to you who ended up leaving equine practice because she was asked to work a full on-call rota despite being part-time and receiving part-time pay. It is such a waste of good talent but fortunately there are plenty of equine practices who do make part-time/flexible working work for them as we heard at BEVA congress last year.
    ...and this doesn't just affect working mums.
    Personal expectations are changing, with many vets now wanting greater commitment to family life and a better work-life balance. A debate at the BEVA 2015 Congress saw 92% of voters agreeing with the motion "Does equine practice need to change to become more compatible with family life?" . Clearly there is a shift in the profession away from the “James Herriot” traditional vet role where work life balance, let alone working whilst pregnant was not even a consideration.